The Ramifications of Covid-19 on Public Health

Several countries in the Middle East and North Africa region are currently imposing new restrictions in response to the recent Covid-19 variant Omicron. Since the outbreak in 2020, it has become evident that there are major differences in how states have managed the pandemic.

The global Covid-19 pandemic has highlighted the varying levels of state capacity and ability to provide health care services to their citizens. Access to vaccines has been relatively straightforward in wealthy Gulf countries, while access and vaccination rates are extremely low in countries such as Syria, Algeria, Yemen and Iraq. The pandemic has also exacerbated existing socioeconomic inequalities within countries. This is likely to have extensive effects on public health as well as trust in the government’s ability to manage future public health crises.

What are the long-term effects of the pandemic on public health, and how well prepared are these states for future public health challenges?

Intissar Fakir, Senior fellow and director of Middle East Institute’s North Africa and the Sahel program
Hanan F. Abdul Rahim, Associate Professor in Public Health and Dean of the College of Health Science, Qatar University
Vira Ameli, Doctoral Student at the Department of Social Policy and Intervention, University of Oxford

Rouzbeh Parsi, Head of Programme at the Swedish Institute of International Affairs (UI)

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Associate Professor lecture – Josepha Wessels

Josepha Wessels, lecturer at K3, holds her docent lecture with the title: Embodiment, Digitality and the study of Media and Communication for Sustainable Development and Social Change.

When: Tuesday 5 October, 14:30 – 15:30 (CEST)
Where: Zoom
Register: Follow this link


Global movements such as the Occupy movement, the Fridays for Futures climate change protests, Black Lives Matter, but also the Arab revolutions, are major global social change events occurring outside of the development industry, and surprisingly, or perhaps not, do not feature heavily in either of the two scholarly fields of Communication for Development and Social Change (CDSC) and Strategic Communication Management (SCM).

All above mentioned social change events emerged outside of the realm of the international development industry, where intergovernmental organizations, non-profits, corporate companies and philanthropic actors define post-colonial global economic power relations. This scholarly gap within the fields of CDSC and SCM creates an opportunity to fill a need to better understand how local communities proactively or reactively use their bodies and digital communication technologies in reaction to authoritarianism, structural inequality and racism, extremism, sociopolitical crises, climate change events and pandemics.

Embodiment, digitality and social change

In this lecture, I will explore embodiment, digitality and social change and describe three vignettes of digitally mediated social change events; the Syrian uprisings, the subsequent war and waves of forced migration that contributed to the global ‘refugee crisis’ and diasporic digitality, and the Sudanese revolution during the ‘second Arab spring’ of 2019.

All vignettes are examples in which, often young, change actors, guided by social technical imaginaries of a better and more sustainable future, used digital communication tools and put their bodies on the line for social change, while at the same time facing major challenges and obstacles by an increasingly polarized geopolitical and neoliberal world, whereby extremist groups and autocratic states are surveilling, suppressing and literally killing their bodies and voices-for-change.

The post-covid-19 recovery

The post-covid-19 recovery, following instantaneous rapid global digitalization and increasing ubiquity of video conferencing tools and immersive media technologies, provides another chance for the afore-mentioned two scholarly fields to engage deeper in strategic research that puts focus on how change actors take up and operationalize social technical imaginaries in collective and connective actions to ‘change the world’.

Lastly, I will give a reflection on communication and embodiment post-covid and how social technical imaginaries will continue to influence the way we communicate, in proximity and at a distance, embodied and dis-embodied, taking into account the latest developments in immersive communication technologies such as Virtual Reality (VR).

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Developments in the Middle East and Perspectives on WMD Disarmament2

SIPRI’s Tarja Cronberg will be participating in a panel which will discuss the developments in the Middle East since the outbreak of the pandemic. The seminar is hosted by Geneva Centre for Security Policy.

Despite the Covid pandemic, the last 12 months have seen a flurry of activity in the Middle East in the field of regional security: The Abraham Accords, moves by the USA and Iran to return to compliance with the JCPOA, and elections in the USA, Iran and Israel, among many others.

In this media briefing hosted jointly by Atomic Reporters, the Geneva Centre for Security Policy and the Middle East Treaty Organization experts in the field will present to reporters from the region and beyond on these pressing topics in order to provide useful context and background to the upcoming UN conferences on weapons of mass destruction (WMD).


Mark Fitzpatrick, International Institute for Strategic Studies

Ali Vaez, International Crisis Group

Tarja Cronberg, Stockholm International Peace Research Institute

Sharon Dolev, Middle East Treaty Organization


Marc Finaud, Geneva Centre for Security Policy


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When: 1 September, 16.00-17.00 CEST

Where: Virtual

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CMES Research Seminar – The Missing Sense of Peace [in Syria and Yemen]. Diplomatic Approachment and Virtualization during the Covid-19 Lockdown.

Isabel Bramsen and Anine Hagemann present their article “The missing sense of peace [in Syria and Yemen]: Diplomatic approachment and virtualization during the COVID-19”


With the unprecedented COVID-lockdown in 2020, many peace diplomatic efforts turned virtual. This represented a temporary loss of many of the usual practices of peace diplomacy and provided an opportunity to examine virtual diplomacy as all that was lost; the importance of physical face-to-face meetings. Based on interviews with parties and mediators involved in the peace processes of Syria and Yemen we analyze the affordances of virtual and physical meetings respectively.

Particularly, virtual meetings condition peace diplomacy in terms of broadening accessibility, putting confidentiality at risk, allowing for higher frequency of meetings, often disrupting interaction, but also in some instances equalizing it. Physical, meetings on the other hand allow for bodily presence, for spending extended periods of time together, for reconciliatory interaction and creating informal space.

Most importantly, the transition to virtual meetings demonstrated the missing sense of peace, a notion we develop to capture the visceral dimension of physical meetings, conceptualized to include understanding, togetherness and trust. We argue that neither virtual nor physical diplomacy should be discarded and discuss strategies of how to work around the missing sense of peace in virtual diplomacy and the potential of hybrid solutions exploiting the potential of both formats.


Isabel Bramsen (PhD) is Associate Senior Lecturer at Lund University, Department of Political Science and postdoctoral researcher at the Centre for Resolution of International Conflicts (CRIC), University of Copenhagen. She has published several articles on nonviolent resistance, violence, conflict resolution, emotions and the micro-sociology of peace and conflict. She is co-author of International Konfliktløsning (Samfundslitteratur 2016) and Addressing International Conflict: Dynamics of Escalation, Continuation and Transformation (Routledge 2019).

Anine Hagemann is a PhD candidate at the University of Copenhagen, on leave from the Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Her research focuses on peacebuilding, Protection of Civilians, women’s involvement in peace negotiations and Nordic peace collaboration. She is interested in practice-relevant research and is a Danish diplomat with extensive field experience. She is co-author of New Nordic Peace (Nordisk Ministerråd 2019).

Please visit CMES event page for more information about speakers, abstract and registration for seminar. We hope to return to hybrid and physical seminars once the infection rate of COVID-19 has decreased.